The Test Shuttle That Never Flew to Space

The Test Shuttle That Never Flew to Space


Enterprise mounted to the top of a modified Boeing 747 during OV-101 Flight 7 on October 12, 1977. The Shuttle’s Tail Cone was removed for this mission, exposing its mock engines.

Enterprise mounted to the top of a modified Boeing 747 during OV-101 Flight 7 on October 12, 1977. The Shuttle’s Tail Cone was removed for this mission, exposing its mock engines.
Photo: NASA

Prior to the inaugural launch of the Space Shuttle Columbia in 1981, NASA conducted a series of performance tests with a prototype known as Enterprise. Named for the fictional Star Trek vessel, Enterprise provided our first glimpse of what a future spaceship might actually look like.

When I was a kid, I loved to play with my toy Enterprise Shuttle, which rested comfortably on top of its corresponding toy 747 jet airliner. NASA’s Space Shuttle had not yet launched to space (yes, I’m dating myself here), yet my imagination was already soaring, as I envisioned the black-and-white spaceplane soaring through the celestial void.

As an adult, I still hold a soft spot for Enterprise. The intrepid prototype set the stage for NASA’s a 4.5-million-pound space truck, despite it never reaching orbit.



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